Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthday greetings to Lal Krishna Advani, "wishing our inspiration, one of India’s tallest leaders who has served India tirelessly & diligently", broadly summed up how he and everyone in the BJP felt for their party veteran.
At 8.30 am on Tuesday, Modi was among the first one land at Advani's residence, 30 Prithviraj Road in New Delhi to personally greet him and share some warm moments with his onetime mentor and party's co-founder. BJP president Amit Shah had arrived there few minutes before Modi's arrival and was there to share the mutual warmth over a cup of tea. "Met Advani ji and extended birthday greetings to him," Modi tweeted. Other senior leaders of the party, in the government and in the organisation of varied hierarchy came thereafter.
President Pranab Mukherjee, only other active leader of Advani's generation at the Centre, had sent a bouquet.
Advani turned 89 today. He is perhaps one of the few persons of his age, in politics or in any other walk of life whose physical age defy biological age, physically fit and mentally agile. His only regret would be that he is no longer required to contribute to the organisation to the best of his ability and capacity. He is part of party's Margdarshak Mandal, a committee which has not so far since its constitution in 2014 or perhaps the party's current dispensation has not found an issue so pressing and so serious that could require the guidance of Margdarshks — Atal Bihari Vajpayee (physically indisposed), LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
He, however, has the satisfaction of building or re-building the BJP into most potent political force in India, a party which was down to two in 1984 to 85 in 1989 and catapulting that to 120 in 1991 in the aftermath of his 1990 Somnath to Ayodhya Ram Rath Yatra and then to a position of forming government at the Centre in 1996, 1998 and 1999. His and Vajpayee's single biggest contribution to Indian polity is of turning it bi-polar, one pole led by the Congress and other pole led by the BJP, which by all accounts was a huge achievement from BJP's perspective.
He has been one Sangh Parivar leader, who has been equally comfortable in both the languages, Hindi and English. Born and brought up in Sindh in undivided India and studying at St Patrick, Hindi was a language he consciously learnt after he joined RSS and travelled to Rajasthan and other parts of India. His command over both the languages served him to provide a counter-narrative to the Congress and other rival formations at an intellectual level, at a time when his ideological Parivar needed it most — ahead of Ram Rath Yatra and during the course of it, as also in aftermath of demolition of Babri mosque. Terms like "pseudo-secularism" and "minoritism", as also the slogan improved from its VHP version — Jo rashtrahit ki baat karega wahi desh pe raj karega (One who talks about welfare of the nation can only rule), provided BJP an ideological high to provide a counter-narrative and turn BJP (since erstwhile Jan Sangh avatar) from a cadre based party to a mass base party, attracting Indian middle class and appealing to rural folks as well.
At 89, his own party full majority government at the Centre completing half of its term in office should have been one of the most glorious moments in his life. The government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has its own list of achievements. Modi is also significantly holding onto his popular credit ratings. It had been a dream come true, the party founders would not have imagined that a three-decade-old party could turn so mighty.
But still, Advani would not be the happiest man. He is not speaking and writing, either at party forums or elsewhere on issues which concern the nation. He also did not speak at the party's recently concluded convention in Kozhikode, which was dedicated to centenary celebrations of Pundit Deendayal Upadhyaya. Advani is the only active leader in the ranks of BJP and Sangh Parivar who could speak on Parivar's foremost ideologue with authority but he didn't speak or perhaps was not asked to speak. That could have been hurting to him. But then he didn't express that either. He perhaps has learnt to live with his silence, if not solitude.
Modi, Shah and host of other top party leaders arriving at his residence to wish him well on his birthday would have been comforting to him — a feeling that he is revered and desired as a family patriarch, just that the younger generations in the family have taken over the decision making positions.
As such, his 89th birthday would have brought mixed feelings for Advani. All those who visited his residence to greet him missed the gracious presence of his beloved wife and his pillar of personal strength, Kamla Advani. This was his first birthday since she departed.